Wanless, R. M., Cunningham, J., Hockey, P. A., Wanless, J., White, R. W., & Wiseman, R. (2002). The success of a soft-release reintroduction of the flightless Aldabra rail (Dryolimnas [cuvieri] aldabranus) on Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles. Biological Conservation, 107(2), 203-210.
Humans and introduced mammalian predators have caused local extinctions and range reductions in the rallid genus Dryolimnas (endemic to western Indian Ocean islands); today two subspecies survive, one on Madagascar and one on three islands (ca. 8000 birds) of Aldabra Atoll. Domestic cats (Felis catus) still occur on Aldabra and their presence poses a signiﬁcant potential threat to the rails. Reintroduction to cat-free islands would signiﬁcantly improve their conservation status. In 1999, 20 rails were captured and brought to now cat-free Picard Island (the third largest island of Aldabra Atoll). Two rails died in captivity but all 18 remaining birds were released and survived beyond the ﬁrst breeding season. Eight pairs had bonded and bred successfully within 2 months of release, producing a minimum of 13 chicks. Eleven monitored pairs produced 20 chicks in 2000/2001, with 1-year-old birds breeding successfully. Average chick production was signiﬁcantly higher in the reintroduced population than in the source population in
both breeding seasons. The reintroduced population at the end of the 2001 breeding season was at least 51, an increase of 283% in 18 months. Around 20 pairs are expected to attempt breeding on Picard in the third season after reintroduction, with excellent prospects for continued, exponential population growth in the medium-term. The soft-release reintroduction protocol allowed monitoring of individual birds’ health before release into the wild. This is believed to have played a crucial role in the success of the reintroduction by allowing individuals to acclimatise and providing additional energetic reserves for the period between release and self-suﬃciency. A soft-release is recommended as the conservative and precautionary method of choice for avian reintroductions and translocations.